Day 2 of Vassey trial wraps, audio recordings reveal shooting details

Day 2 of Vassey trial wraps, audio recordings reveal shooting details
Wednesday marks day two of the bench trial for Bryon Vassey (Source: Brunswick County Sheriff's Office)

BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WECT) - Wednesday marked day two of the bench trial involving former Southport Police sergeant Bryon Vassey.

The trial resumed Wednesday around 9:30 a.m.

Items, including Vassey's service weapon, a taser, gun shot residue, photographs of Vassey and shell casings from his weapon, were presented and reviewed by Claire Weeks, a former agent with the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation.

Weeks talked about the screwdriver investigators said Keith Vidal has in his hand before the shooting.

Vassey's defense team spent much of the morning cross examining witnesses.

Weeks said the screwdriver looked more like a "pick" than a screwdriver.  When she arrived to the scene of the shooting, she says the "pick" was not at the home. She testified Wednesday that Vassey did not have gloves on his hands and handed over the item at the Boiling Spring Lakes Police Department. The agent said she would have rather picked it up herself from the crime scene.

The state also called Dr. John Almedia to the stand Wednesday.

Almedia, a pathologist, conducted Vidal's autopsy two days after the shooting.

Almedia reviewed photographs of the autopsy as well as a taser probe found in Vidal's body.

Almeida concluded that Vidal's cause of death was a gunshot wound to his right side.

Almeida also testified that the gunshot wound was distant, which means the shot was fired 12-18 inches away from Vidal. He described the bullet that killed Vidal as "copper jacketed" and "relatively intact." He said it is mushroomed at the end.

When questioned by the defense, Almeida said he could not determine what position Vidal was actually in when he was shot and killed.

Following Almeida's testimony, SBI Special Agent Scott Jones said he reviewed the gun used in the shooting and also fired test rounds from it. Scott testified that the bullet that killed Vidal would be described as "mushroomed shaped."

Jones said it is designed to expand.

A 911 operator also took the stand Wednesday morning and confirmed when Mark Wilsey, Vidal's stepfather, called 911 on January 5, 2014.

Officer John Thomas was the first officer to respond to Vidal's house for assistance two years ago and he was the last person to take the stand in court Wednesday.

In his testimony, Thomas said his goal was to "assist Keith getting to the hospital."

When Thomas arrived at the house, Thomas said Vidal was in the hallway with a broom in his hand. He described him as having a "hateful look."

The situation seemed to be under control for a couple of minutes. Records from 911 dispatchers indicate that Thomas told communicators everything was "10-4" at the home.

When a second deputy arrived on scene about ten minutes later, Vidal eventually ran into a bathroom. Thomas said he came out with the screwdriver in his hand and was moving at a fast pace.

"It was evident he was coming down the hall at us," said Thomas.

Prosecutors played the full version of Thomas' body microphone audio recordings. Portions of the same recordings were played in court Tuesday.

That audio painted a chaotic picture of how the situation unfolded.

In the recording, Thomas and another deputy can be heard trying to reason with Vidal before Vassey entered the home. Thomas said Vassey instructed them to tase Vidal, so they could end the situation and confiscate the taser.

Thomas testified that he had Vidal pinned to the ground, but Vidal could still lift his arm about two inches from the ground. He said Vidal's hand kept hitting the taser holster.

As the recording continued to play, a scuffle between Thomas and Vidal ensued.

Thomas said he ordered "hit him again," meaning he wanted the other officers to tase Vidal again.

Thomas remembered hearing someone say "I can't." Shortly after, he recalled "the loudest freaking taser I've ever heard." The sound turned out to be Vassey's gun going off close to Thomas' head.

After the shooting, even more chaos erupted in the home. Thomas can be heard saying that his ears were ringing and that his hands were shaking after it all happened.

Vassey is charged with voluntary manslaughter for the death of Vidal two years ago. His trial started Tuesday in Brunswick County.

Court will resume Wednesday morning.

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